The Volunteer State rumbles over health care reform, challenges prepared

By: Nick Bona Email
By: Nick Bona Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – The much debated health care reform bill has officially become law.

Armed with 22 pens and surrounded by supporters, President Barack Obama signed the historic health care reform act into law.

"Our presence here today is remarkable and improbable," the President said during a late morning ceremony at the White House.

But the celebration did not last long, as senators have already launched into a scheduled 20 hour period of debate over changes to their version of the bill that was passed on Sunday by congress.

“Most Americans out there aren't celebrating today,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “They're dumbfounded by the fact that congress just passed this 2,683 page monstrosity."

Supporters say the bill will provide health care cover for 32 uninsured Americans. Those against it said the measure is unpopular with most Americans, will drive up taxes and cost nearly $1 trillion.

“We think from 2014 to 2019, what's been passed, is going to cost the state about a $1.1 billion,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen on Tuesday. “That's a pretty big price tag for Tennessee to pay going down the road.”

Protesters across the Volunteer State have rallied around both sides of the issue and have been camping out at the state capitol in Nashville since the weekend to let their voices be heard.

“There seems to be a lot of misinformation, a lot of hatred and anger,” Matt Berman, a supporter of the reform bill told CBS affiliate WTVF in Nashville.

“Everybody agrees health care has to be reformed, but not at the level they're doing,” said Devon Barlettano, who was firmly against the recently passed legislation.

Tennessee's Attorney General could soon join his counterparts from more than a dozen states in fighting against the law. He is considering joining them in suing the federal government in an effort to have the health care overhaul declared unconstitutional. Attorney Generals in other states who already plan to file lawsuits base their case on the argument that the federal government cannot force individuals to purchase health insurance.

"I think it's an uphill battle in terms of the Constitution,” said Bredesen, “but it's a legitimate issue and I have no complaints against Attorney Generals who are putting it forward."

The United States Department of Justice said Tuesday that it is confident the law is constitutional and will prevail in court.

Gov. Bredesen admitted a lawsuit could be expensive, but he has no plans to stop Tennessee’s possible participation in the challenge. Until then, he is happy to be working to apply the federally mandated changes to TennCare.

“It's done, the congress has voted on it and it is the law,” he said. “These are the cards, the hand we've been playing. Let’s roll our sleeves up and figure out how to make it work here in Tennessee.”

The possible legal challenge isn’t the only effort the state may make to put a dent in the federal bill.

On Wednesday, a Tennessee House subcommittee will also vote on a bill that would allow Tennessee to avoid federal health care mandates that would cost the state around $1.1 billion.

As for the health care law, experts have said it will take about 6 months for Americans to notice the changes. The first big change that will be noticeable will allow adults to keep their parent's coverage until the age of 26.


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